Friday, July 20, 2012

Wrapping Up our Wet Irish Adventure

We arrived home in Vernon last night in the early evening after about 15 hours in transit.  Just as we expected--what a contrast in weather.  It was hot and dry so off came a few layers for the drive home from the airport.  I stayed up until my usual bedtime last night, but of course woke up disgustingly early this morning (4 AM) which is why I've decided to do a final blog post.

I have a few images of Belfast to share.  These were taken while sightseeing Tuesday on a double-decker bus in the rain--one of those buses where half the seats upstairs are under cover, which is where we were of course!
A sculpture on the Belfast waterfront, affectionately known as
"The doll on the ball".  Her real name is Beacon of Hope.
Belfast is sprinkled with public art and reading the comments at Beacon of Hope gives a sense of the controversy surrounding the murals still on display.  Here's one such mural:

This is the face of Bobby Sands who was elected as a local MP shortly before
he died of his hunger strike.
These murals are in Belfast's neighbourhoods, and clearly mark out sectarian territory.  Common themes of the Loyalist murals are King William on his white horse at the Battle of the Boyne, the current Queen, the "red hand of Ulster" which refers back to the Battle of the Somme in 1916 where many Ulster soldiers died, and "No Surrender!" slogans. Common images in Republican murals are of the hunger strikers and broader world political issues such as support for Palestinians.  Both sets of murals include unpleasant military images such as men dressed in balaclavas and carrying machine guns.  And both sets include a lot of graffiti which is present in any city in the world.  According to the Lonely Planet, since the peace accord, there has been an effort to replace some of the more aggressively partisan murals with those celebrating non-political subjects such as Belfast-born football star George Best (the airport is named after him) and the Harland and Wolff shipyards which is where the Titanic was built.

Moving along from Belfast now (and it's a real shame that we gave this great city such short shrift), we spent Wednesday morning at Glendalough in the Wicklow mountains.  This ancient monastic site was established in the 5th Century, was very powerful by the 9th C, but started to decay and fall into ruin in the 15th C.  Lloyd was really taken with the round tower which is in near perfect condition--just the roof was replaced in 1876 after a lightening strike.  The wooden floors and ladders inside have however disintegrated.  

The Lonely Planet says "you won't find more evocative clumps of stones anywhere" and I agree. 
Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, the largest of Glendalough's
seven churches.
One of the great things about this site is that it's nestled in forest amongst the Wicklow hills and there is an extensive network of trails.  We walked along "the Wicklow Way" for a few kilometres to the Lower and Upper Lakes and then back to the Visitor's Centre, enjoying the fresh air and misty rain...  The soft misty Irish rain that feels gentle on your face!

Still in rain jacket...

Clambering under fallen gravestones--note jacket has been shed,
the sun had come out.
This is still an "active" cemetery where people are still being buried but these particular gravestones are 200 years old.

We then drove to Tullow in Co. Carlow for lunch with new friends in their home.  Susan had written to me in June asking for advice on making liturgical stoles from neckties so after a pleasant lunch Susan and I had a great sewing session while Lloyd, Andrew and the kids went for a walk to an ancient hilltop ring fort nearby.  Unfortunately Lloyd didn't have his camera!

When we left, they suggested we visit the largest dolmen in Europe, just outside the city of Carlow.
This is about 5000 years old.  The granite capstone is estimated to weigh  100 tonnes.
We then made our way to north towards Dublin, again in the driving rain which makes motorway driving very unpleasant.  Both of us had frayed nerves by the time we arrived in Maynooth at 6:30 PM where I had booked our accommodation at St. Patrick's College.  Unfortunately their electricity had been knocked out by a lightening strike so we couldn't check in.  Oh well, we went off for "a pint and dinner"...  Lloyd's last pint of Guinness!  My last glass of Bulmer's apple cider!

And so ends our Irish travels.  We have lots of great memories and stories to share.

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